High Fire Danger In January....Not Good

High Fire Danger In January….Not Good

The old timers in the area have told me of days past when they measured snowstorms in feet. Since I moved to the Jemez Mountains in 1989, we have measured snow events in inches. Now it seems that we measure snowfall by the number of snowflakes that we can count. Of course that is an exaggeration, but sadly, it is not far off.

And, we are not alone. The entire southwestern part of the US, including much of California, has been affected by a persistent high pressure system that is diverting the winter weather far to the north.

So far this winter season, I have measured 12 inches of total snowfall. Last year I measured 72 inches and the year before that….96 inches. Needless to say, this winter is shaping up to be one of the driest in a long, long time. I remember the winter of 2001-2002 that a grand total of 13 inches fell in this area.

However, according to the ‘Farmer’s Almanac’, the Southwest is predicted to have cold and snowy weather the first and last part of February and the first part of March. I am hoping that the Almanac is correct. Many swear by it. As of this writing, the NWS forecast is calling for a chance for stormy weather tomorrow (January 30) through the weekend and into next week. We can only hope.

So what does this mean? If we do not have significant moisture this late winter and into the spring, the Jemez Mountains will once again become a tinderbox susceptible to wildfire. The reality is that because of extreme fire danger within the Santa Fe National Forest, Jemez Ranger District, the forest and campgrounds could be closed to public use early and often. I am not trying to be an alarmist, but these are the facts as we have them right now.

My advice is to keep your eye on this website for up to the minute information and plan your Jemez recreation early this year. With an early ice off at Fenton Lake, some of the best fishing of the year can be March and April. There will be virtually no runoff this spring in the rivers, so plan your river fishing early as well. The forest roads usually open around April 1st, and perhaps earlier this year, providing opportunities for dispersed camping. Who knows, perhaps the Forest Service will open the campgrounds earlier than their normal early May opening.

On the other hand, we can hope that the ‘Farmers Almanac’ will prove correct and we can start measuring our snowfall in inches (or feet) this late winter. Wouldn’t that be dandy. Do your best snow dance and let’s hope for the best.